Anthem hero loses Shs50m court award

Tuesday July 16 2019

RIP. George William Kakoma

RIP. George William Kakoma 


The family of the late George William Kakoma has lost the Shs50m that a lower court had awarded him for composing the national anthem.
In 2010, then High Court Judge Yorokamu Bamwine awarded Kakoma (now deceased) Shs50m as compensation and royalty for the anthem.
Judge Bamwine noted that the award was his final settlement for the family’s claims.
Kakoma rejected the award, saying it was little for his efforts and through his lawyer Joseph Bossa, he asked for a compensation of Shs800m.
Kakoma had sued government for alleged violation of his copyright and sought an injunction to restrain the State from using his song- the National Anthem.
The widow, Ms Mary Theresa Kakoma, took over the matter after his death on April 8, 2012 and filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal.
In a unanimous judgment of three justices led by Elizabeth Musoke yesterday, the court dismissed the appeal and quashed the Shs50m compensation the High Court had awarded to the family.
The judges ruled that the composition of the song by Prof Kakoma that was eventually adopted as the National Anthem in 1962 was done under the direction and or control of the government at the time and subsisted for 50 years until 2012, thus its copyright was accordingly vested in the Government of Uganda.
Other justices are; Fredrick Egonda-Ntende and Hellen Obura.
In their judgment read by the deputy registrar of the court, Ms Agnes Nkonge, the justices explained that after 2012 the copyright ceased to have legal protection and is deemed to have entered the public domain.
“The copyright which was vested in the Government of Uganda enjoyed legal protection for fifty tears which expired in 2012. Thereafter the musical composition entered into the public domain. Accordingly, the composition no longer enjoys copyright protection and can be used freely by the public.
While citing Black’s Law Dictionary 8th edition the justices noted that when copyright, trademark, patent or trade-secret rights are lost or expire, the intellectual property they had protected becomes part of the public domain and can be appropriated by anyone without liability for infringement.
Court noted that the learned trial judge of the High Court made a finding that Kakoma entered into open competition with the knowledge that his composition would be adopted as a National Anthem which he accepted by submitting his successful entry and for which Shs2000 was paid to him which amount in the trial judge’s view was sufficient consideration for his composition.
“The award of Shs50m which was granted to the appellant in Civil Suit No. 197 of 2008 had no legal basis and is hereby set aside,” court ruled.
The justices did not make order for costs because the suit resolution is of public importance.
Justice Bamwine had also disallowed Kakoma’s request to be declared the lawful owner of the anthem. In his suit, Kakoma had claimed the State owed him royalties for each time the anthem was recited.
With his claim, it was difficult to determine how many times the anthem has been recited since 1962, since it’s played at all official functions.
Mr Kakoma was paid Shs2,000 in 1963 after beating five others to have his copy adopted the national anthem.